Xcel Energy Inc. said Thursday that Christopher Clark, an executive who has handled regional regulatory affairs for the utility, has been named president of its Upper Midwest operating division.

He takes over Jan. 1 for retiring President Dave Sparby. During 15 years at Xcel, Clark most recently has served as a regional vice president for rates and regulatory affairs, appearing before utility commissions in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota on regulatory matters.

Clark, an attorney, steps into the job as Xcel prepares for major regulatory decisions in 2015. Besides a pending electric rate case, the utility also will file a 15-year plan in Minnesota that addresses what type of power generation — from coal and natural gas to wind, solar and hydro — are the best choices for the future.

“We are going to have a great opportunity to talk about how we can achieve substantial carbon reduction and add significant renewables all at an affordable price,” Clark said in an interview.

Clark also said Xcel will consider smaller, scattered electrical production often called distributed generation. It can include solar, small natural gas engines and other technologies, and is a shift away from the big power plants long favored by utilities.

“We have an opportunity to look at modernization of the grid so we can look at new and distributed types of generation and emerging technologies that will help us provide additional value to our customers,” Clark said.

Some large business customers have asked Xcel to offer more green energy options to meet corporate sustainability goals, he added. Xcel has long offered customers a chance to buy additional wind power through its Windsource program. “A lot of customers are seeking new solutions,” Clark said. “As we move into 2015, we are looking for ways to advance those solutions.”

Clark, 48, has held increasingly responsible roles during his 15-year tenure with the company, beginning as legal counsel in 1999. Before joining Xcel Energy, Clark was a regulatory attorney at Alliant Energy, the company said in a news release.

Because of his regulatory role, Clark is well known to the varied interests that take part in utility proceedings, including consumer groups, business organizations and oversight agencies like the Minnesota Commerce Department.

He will lead a division that serves about 1.4 million electric customers and 400,000 natural gas customers in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Xcel, which operates in eight states, said about 40 percent of its revenue comes from the Upper Midwest division.

Clark, who grew up in West Des Moines, obtained his law degree from Drake University in 1991 and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1988.